In the comments to yesterday's post about Al Franken's tax woes, Curmudgeon asks:
Post Enron, I thought 'I just did what my accountants said' was no longer a valid excuse - legally or in the court of public opinion. Isn't this is the same excuse Skilling and Lay used?
This is not quite the same thing. For starters, as I undertand it, Al Franken wasn't engaging in concealing his financial position--he paid taxes on the income in Minnesota, when he should have paid taxes on it in seventeen different states. For another, the CEO of a corporation should expect to be reasonably familiar with the principles of financial accounting, and the various implications of moving substantial liabilities off balance sheet. Expecting a comedian to understand the tax law is somewhat less reasonable.
People pay their accountants to look at their records and tell them whom, and how much, to pay. Al Franken reasonably relied on his accountant to tell him to do the right thing. If he'd tried to conceal the income, I wouldn't have much sympathy, but he didn't. He just paid the taxes to the wrong place.